This paper introduces constructivist dialogue mapping (CDM), a new type of concept mapping. CDM encodes what people learn during a non-goal directed learning activity. CDM is a practical means to outline the mini theories users fluidly construct as they explore open-ended learning environments. To demonstrate the method, in this paper we use CDM to track how two modelers elaborate understandings during use of a constructionist learning game, Ant Adaptation. Using the method, we show how two users contest and construct their idea of self-organization in ant colonies. The method is rooted in constructionism, constructivism, concept mapping, and conceptual change.
This paper describes visitor interaction with an interactive tabletop game on the topic of evolutionary adaptations of social insects that we designed in collaboration with a large American museum. We observed visitors playing the game and talked to them about the experience. The game explores the emergent phenomena of ant behavior. Research has shown that such emergent behavior is difficult for people to understand, and that there are different emergent schemas that work best for understanding these phenomena. We tested the visitors pre- and post-gameplay and counted the prevalence of visitors expressing direct and emergent schemas of complex processes. We then considered four hypotheses measuring changes between these schemas and found that two groups shifted their schemas. To better understand this change we provide a qualitative overview of the visitors' interactions. Our exhibit, called Ant Adaptation, takes the form of an agent-based modeling game that integrates complex system learning with gameplay. We video recorded 38 groups (114 participants) playing the game and conducted pre- and post-gameplay interviews. We coded the groups that contained children for this analysis: 9 groups (27 participants). Our results show that visitors held both emergent and direct schemas before and after play, and three people changed from direct schemas before play to emergent schemas after play. We then examine the process of how one of these groups shifted their schemas.
Research on the effectiveness of introductory programming environments often relies on post-test measures and attitudinal surveys to support its claims; but such instruments lack the ability to identify any explanatory mechanisms that can account for the results. This paper reports on a study designed to address this issue. Using Noss and Hoyles' constructs of webbing and situated abstractions, we analyze programming novices playing a program-to-play constructionist video game to identify how features of introductory programming languages, the environments in which they are situated, and the challenges learners work to accomplish, collectively affect novices' emerging understanding of programming concepts. Our analysis shows that novices develop the ability to use programming concepts by building on the suite of resources provided as they interact with the computational context of the learning environment. In taking this approach, we contribute to computer science education design literature by advancing our understanding of the relationship between rich, complex introductory programming environments and the learning experiences they promote.
In spite of decades of use of agent-based modelling in social policy research and in educational contexts, very little work has been done on combining the two. This paper accounts for a proof-of-concept single case-study conducted in a college-level Social Policy course, using agent-based modelling to teach students about the social and human aspects of urban planning and regional development. The study finds that an agent-based model helped a group of students think through a social policy design decision by acting as an object-to-think-with, and helped students better connect social policy outcomes with behaviours at the level of individual citizens. The study also suggests a set of new issues facing the design of Constructionist activities or environments for the social sciences.